Unearthing the Ecology of Soil Microorganisms Using a High Resolution DNA-SIP Approach to Explore Cellulose and Xylose Metabolism in Soil

Front Microbiol. 2016 May 12;7:703. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00703. eCollection 2016.


We explored microbial contributions to decomposition using a sophisticated approach to DNA Stable Isotope Probing (SIP). Our experiment evaluated the dynamics and ecological characteristics of functionally defined microbial groups that metabolize labile and structural C in soils. We added to soil a complex amendment representing plant derived organic matter substituted with either (13)C-xylose or (13)C-cellulose to represent labile and structural C pools derived from abundant components of plant biomass. We found evidence for (13)C-incorporation into DNA from (13)C-xylose and (13)C-cellulose in 49 and 63 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), respectively. The types of microorganisms that assimilated (13)C in the (13)C-xylose treatment changed over time being predominantly Firmicutes at day 1 followed by Bacteroidetes at day 3 and then Actinobacteria at day 7. These (13)C-labeling dynamics suggest labile C traveled through different trophic levels. In contrast, microorganisms generally metabolized cellulose-C after 14 days and did not change to the same extent in phylogenetic composition over time. Microorganisms that metabolized cellulose-C belonged to poorly characterized but cosmopolitan soil lineages including Verrucomicrobia, Chloroflexi, and Planctomycetes.

Keywords: DNA-SIP; carbon cycle; cellulose; decomposition; soil; stable isotope probing; trophic; verrucomicrobia.